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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  March 14, 2012 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT

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vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators wishing to change -- to vote or to change their vote? hearing none, the ayes are 76,
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the nays are 20. and so the boxer amendment is agreed to. there are now -- there are now two minutes of debate equally divided prior to a vote in relation to amendment number 51556 offered from the senator from kentucky, mr. paul. and i would ask order. mr. paul: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. paul: currently the bridge between marshall county and trigg county has been collapsed by a disaster. if you want to repair your bridges or repair roads washed out there is an enormous amount of government red tape that can slow the process town. to get an environmental study done, it can be four years at times. this amendment would remove government red tape and allow us to fix our bridges when we have a disaster such as a collapse, fix our roads when a road is
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washed out. this is different than the alternative. the alternative we just voted on was say something, do nothing. this is something that will say something and do something. an amendment that will get rid of government red tape and allow us to repair our bridges in an expeditious 235gs. often we wait years to go through government red tape. this cuts through it and allows states to immediately repair or replace collapsed or broken bridges or roads and i urge passage of amendment 1556. thank you. the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: i'd like order, please. the presiding officer: could we have order, please. thank you. mrs. boxer: colleagues, i think we are now at the last amendment so please hear me out. if you care about your constituency, you've got to vote no on this. the implication is that the senator is waiving environmental rules, health and safer rules after a disaster. it's not true. read the amendment.
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it's any kind of reconstruction for any safety purpose. if you have a bridge in your great state that's over 50 years old, it has lead and it has asbestos. every health and safety reg that deals with the safe disposal of just those two toxics led alone pcb's and others, it's waived. one speck of asbestos in your lungs and you know what happens. in the days bill, in the underlying bill senator inhofe and i have expedited reviews dramatically. we came together on it. it was tough negotiation. stick with us and please vote no on this dangerous amendment. the presiding officer: the question is -- mrs. boxer: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky.
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mrs. boxer: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: i raise a point of order that the pending amendment violates section 311-a-2-a of the budget control act. the presiding officer: could the senator recite her point of order. mrs. boxer: i raise a point of order that the pending amendment violates section 3-11-a-2-a of the congressional budget act of 1974. the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. paul: pursuant to section 904 of the congressional budget act of 1974 and section 4-g-3 of
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the statutory pay-as-you-go act of 2007 between i move to waive all applicable sections. these acts and for the purposes might have amendment and ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the question is on the motion to waive. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators who wish to vote or change their votes? hearing none, on this vote, the yeas are 42 and the nays are 54. three fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to. the point of order is sustained and the amendment fails. the clerk will read the title of the bill for the third time. i'm sorry. the majority leader. mr. reid: could we have order, please. the presiding officer: yes. order, please.
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mr. reid: mr. president, i will take just a minute to talk about the bill we're going to vote final passage on in just a few minutes. i can't say it enough. i've said it a lot and i'll continue to say it. this is a wonderful opportunity for the senate and a great accomplishment for our country, and when i say -- what i say just now i have said many times because it feels so good to say it. one of the most progressive members of this body and one of the most conservative members of this body got together and said they wanted to do a bill, a bill that was good for the american people, a bill that will save or create 2.8 million jobs. now, we have had some scuffles along the way, but that's what the senate's all about. the rules of the senate sometimes demand scuffles, as difficult as they are. we now have a bill that will pass. it will have a significant bipartisan vote.
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and i so appreciate senator boxer and senator inhofe helping us work through this. but for them, we couldn't have done the bill. frankly, senator mcconnell and i could not have accomplished this, but with these two fine senators working to move some of the obstacles in the path as late as yesterday, we were able to get this done. so i so appreciate their hard work, their good work. as everyone knows, i am a very good friend of barbara boxer. she and i came to washington together 30 years ago. what a lot of people don't know is the very close personal relationship i have with jim inhofe. one of the finest letters -- it does bring tears to my eyes, quite frankly, that i have received during my wife's illness was a letter from him. expressing his friendship to me
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and of course his saying he was going to do everything he could do, say prayers for my wife. so this is for me an opportunity to talk about how good the senate can be, and i'm proud of every one of you for working our way through this. so ending on a higher note, perhaps, i ask unanimous consent that the -- before i ask that, senator mcconnell and i have reached an agreement on the judges. he will explain to his caucus, i will explain to mine, but it's something i feel is in keeping with what we need to do here. it was something that like all matters we do here legislatively an effort to work out a compromise. so i ask unanimous consent that the cloture votes scheduled for 2:30 today be vitiated, all of them. the presiding officer: is there
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objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the minority leader, the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i would like to associate myself with the excellent remarks the majority leader made about senator boxer and senator inhofe and the way they have worked together in a collegial way to bring us to this point on the highway bill. let me also say that the majority leader and i have worked out an agreement to go forward and handle judges. and also i'm pleased that he has agreed to turn to the -- to the jobs bill next. i think that's something everybody in the senate here will be pleased about. and so i am happy to say that we have reached an understanding here that we will have an opportunity to explain to our colleagues in the next hour or so. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. reid: if i could, before you recognize the senator from vermont. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i have learned in my
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years in the senate especially since senator leahy took over the judiciary committee, i don't do anything with the judiciary committee, especially with judges, that i don't clear it first with senator leahy. so he has been an integral part of our being able to work through this judges issue. mr. leahy: mr. president, i was simply going to say i have had some very friendly conversations with senator reid and senator mcconnell during the past couple of days, and having served with both of them for a long time, i know that when an agreement is made, it is an agreement that we will stick to, and i -- i'm aware of the nature of the agreement. i just want to compliment both the democratic leader and the republican leader for their help in moving forward. mrs. boxer: may i be recognized for 25, 30 seconds now before the vote to simply thank -- the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: thank both leaders
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for their kind remarks. really, i have to say that senator inhofe and i and our staffs really became close family as we worked through this, and i -- i am so moved at the way we were able to come together, all of us, and even those on the other side and on this side who had amendments that were tough, it was difficult but we got through it. i urge a resounding aye vote. i know you're not going to agree with every single thing in this, but we tried to work with each and every one of you. i urge a strong aye vote, and then let's get the house to pass our bill. this is a jobs bill. thank you very much. i urge an aye vote. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title of the bill for a third time. the clerk: calendar number 311, s. 1813, a bill to reauthorize federal-highway and highway safety construction programs and for other purposes. the presiding officer: under the
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previous order, there will now be two minutes of debate equally divided prior to a vote on passage of the bill as amended. mr. inhofe: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. order, please. the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: mr. president, first of all, i will make this very, very brief. i want to say how much i appreciate the comments of the majority leader. it is not necessary, but it is very meaningful to me personally. i want to also say about senator boxer, yes, she and i are probably at the opposite extremes in this room on almost -- on many, many issues. i have always said conservatives should be big spenders in two areas, national defense and infrastructure. we have to look at this and look at the future so we don't have to go through this again. i do want to thank all of those on your side, i say to senator boxer, and on my side, the only staff i will mention is ruth van
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mark. she has been with me for 22 years. she is now getting off of probation. i thank all of you for your cooperation on this. i urge a vote on it. the presiding officer: if there is no further debate, the question is on s. 1813 as amended. is there a sufficient second? there is. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators who wish to vote or to change their vote? hearing none, the ayes are 74,
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the nays are 22. the bill is -- as amended is passed. without objection -- under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 2:00 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each with the time equally divided and controlled by the two leaders or their designees. the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: i didn't want to take a lot of time before the vote because i knew we were anxious to get it done and certainly we've been through this so many times, the significance of passing a transportation bill, reauthorization bill, i was asked by one of my republican
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members, you know, we've done so many of these extensions. what would be the difference between an extension and a short two-year bill. and i've commented, you can't get any of the improvements, can't do any of the planning and i would like to say this: that to my republican friends, i regret that some of them voted against it not really being fully aware of some of the great reforms we have in here and i appreciate the fact that senator boxer was agreeing to things that playoffally she didn't agree -- philosophically she didn't drea agree. and we've solved the enhancement problem so decisions can be made by the states. so i think that was good. i would like to mention on our staff, ruth van mark, i was kidding when i said she was off of probation but has been loyal to me for 22 years. james o'keeffe, murphy barrett, dmitri karakitsis and
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alec ragel. and they have a great team on the democratic side. since i lost that page, i'll make sure we get that in the record. but some really good reforms have fannie tean place here. we need now to get serious about what we're going to do in the next short while in preparation of a much longer and a better and more robust highway reauthorization bill. of course the first thing is to get with the house members, get into conference and see what we can accomplish. let me just thank all the staff, all the people working on this and senator boxer, of course the majority leader, harry reid, as well as mitch mcconnell. i yield the floor. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent following my remarks senator landrieu be served. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: i wanted to again thank everybody and in the morning business period i had praised all of the staffs, both sides of the aisle, all of the chairmen, all of the ranking members. i would ask u.c. if that would
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be could be placed at this time following senator inhofe's remarks, those thank yous. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: i thank you so much. it was a great vote, 74-22, had, if senator lautenberg were here it would have been 75. what more can a chairman ask for? thank you very much, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: thank you, mr. president. i wanted to take a minute to thank senator boxer and senator inhofe and the staffs of both of those excellent senators that have worked so hard on this bill that is so important to our country. from new york to california, from alaska to florida, this bill represents over $110 billion of investments, investments, mr. president, in america today. whether we're talking about two-lane roads, farm-to-market
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roads, one-lane roads or two-lane roads or interstates or rail that's running in our urban areas that are congested, time consuming and frustrating for our drivers, whether it's for the trucking industry that depends on good, solid, strong highways, whether it's the petrochemical destroy, the oil and gas industry, our small businesses, it's important for america's infrastructure to be strengthened. and that's what we did today. and i know the senate has been criticized over and over again by not being able to function, but you saw today as our leader said, one of the most conservative members and one of the most progressive members bring to this floor and get 74 votes for this bill. that's hard work, that's the
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way the senate should work, and i am so proud to have been a small part of this overall bill with senator whitehouse, senator shelby from alabama, and many other senators that joined us in an effort to put on a very important amendment to the gulf coast and to the country in this transportation bill. and that bill, which was adopted as an amendment to the transportation bill, mr. president, you know, as the restore act and the reason we call at this time restore act is because that is exactly what it will do. it will restore america's energy coast, the gulf coast. and we're proud of our energy infrastructure. we're also proud of our fishing industry. we're also proud of our ecotourism industry. we're also proud of our commercial fishing and recreational charter captains that operate, taking people
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from all over the world off the beautiful coast of florida, mississippi, alabama, louisiana, and texas. mr. president, some of the best fishing in the world, a fishery that is alive and vibrant, not overfished, people in business, restaurants serving this food all over the country, we are so proud to have passed the restore act, which is going to take not taxpayer money, not money adding to the deficit, but a fine that's going to be levied very soon in the courts, very soon. this fine will be levied against b.p. because of the largest -- single largest environmental disaster in the nation's history, caused by b.p., an operator of oil and gas wells, not just in the gulf but all
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around the world. they drill safely in many places but-by-they sure messed this -- boy, they sure messed this one up. 11 were killed, others were injured, five million barrels of oil, approximately, hundreds of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the gulf of mexico. it was a horrible accident, it should not have happened, but no industry is perfect, and no operation like this, whether it's going to space or going down below sea, whether it's producing sphis tate kateed -- sophisticated equipment or whether nits the mining and extraction business, there's no complete guarantee of complete safety and perfection. this was a terrible accident. we wish it never would have happened and the courts are sorting out whether this company was simply negligent or grossly negligent. we can have our opinions but
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it's not something we need to decide. what we did decide though is when the court set that penalty that what's right, what's right for the states that were so injured, marshes inundated with oil, pelicans and dolphins and other wildlife, birds that life and breed and count on this environment to be there, was taken from them, what's fair is for that money to be redirected back to the gulf coast and because of the good work of you, mr. president, senator baucus, i want to thank particularly, senator bickman, we were automobile -- bingaman, we were able to add, not in the restore bill, but a side-by-side basically, finding some money to find the land and water conservation fund, only for two years, but it's going to be more money in that fund than has been in there for a while, to also accommodate the
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environment nationally. which there's a balance and a synergy there. the gulf coast wants to be fair here. our people have suffered, but we also know that the country has been very generous to us through a series of very unfortunate events in the last six years. katrina, rita, gustav and ike, horrible hurricanes. but every part of the nation has experienced disaster, whether it was too the fires in california or the flooding in the northeast or the hurricane last season that raked the northeast. last season, in fact, mr. president, you will remember was the worst -- well, let me say this: it was the season that had the largest number of disasters. there were ten that cost over a billion dollars. i'm sorry, 12 that cost over a billion dollars. that's not happened before. so lots of parts of the country have suffered. but the gulf coast has suffered in a special way, unfortunately, with the series
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of events, hurricanes and oil spills. so we're grateful. we tried to make this bill appropriate, leaving 20% in the general fund, which will secure doubling the amount of money in that liability trust fund. that's a benefit to the nation. we put in some money for land and water. that will benefit the nation. and there is money to establish an oceans trust. i ask for another minute. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. landrieu: that will benefit the nation. but the bulk of that penalty money -- will go to -- money will go to the gulf coast and it will not be wasted, i promise you. the gulf has tight guideline gliens about the way that money is spent, rebuilding our coastline which we've lost the size of the state of rhode island and i want to thank so much the groups. there were over two hundred
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organizations from ducks unlimited to the national environmental defense fund to nature conservancy that supported the restore. without their help, this never, ever would have happened. because you don't get a vote like we did on the senate floor without a lot of help. we got i believe 74 -- i'll check the record -- maybe it was 76 votes on the floor of the senate. that's hard to get a resolution on mom and apple pie to get 76 votes today. so i'm very humbld to say it was -- humbled to say it was the work of many, many people, i was proud to lead this effort with senator shelby, my partner from alabama. but my final comment is work needs to be done and that's my final point. the amendment is in the transportation bill. the transportation bill has now left the building, left the senate. it's now on its way over to the house. i hope the house will take this
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bill -- and i know they have their own opinions about how things should be. but it is important to get this $110 billion of investments out for america. we need to kiev he keep this recovery going. people are looking for jobs, well-paying jobs, small businesses, get these contracts as well as large businesses, for our rail, our water, our transportation. and i hope that the restore act, because it is safely tucked in this bill, will generate some additional votes on the house side. i hope nigh colleagues from the -- my colleagues from the gulf coast in the house, republicans and democrats, will say overall it may not be the house's transportation bill, but you know what? it's a good bill. and 22 republicans over here voted for this bill. as senator inhofe said, there's streamlining, there are new approaches, better approaches, less waste, less fraud, less abuse in this bill. so there's some good things that
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we can vote on, and i hope -- and i thank again in conclusion senator inhofe and senator boxer and particularly senator baucus for his help in helping us at the very end to put what we needed to get together to pass this restore act. and i'll continue to report to you how the courts are going to rule, how much this fine is going to be and how that money is spent in the next couple of years to help save a very important part of our nation and a part of the nation that contributes substantially to the g.d.p. of our nation. thank you. and let me ask, mr. president, unanimous consent that the order to proceed to executive session at 2:00 p.m. be vitiated and that morning business be extended until 5:00 p.m. with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each and that the time be equally divided.
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the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york is recognized. mr. schumer: first let me compliment my colleague from louisiana for his diligence, her hard work. i don't think anybody effectively delivers more for her state in this chamber than the senator from louisiana, and i can assure you knowing her, now that she's done this, she's going to have another proposal and she'll be talking to us about it probably within a few hours. and she, because of her hard work and charm and many other good qualities, she never wears out her welcome, at least with the senator from new york. mr. president, the big issue everyone's talking about is gasoline prices. obviously there's a discourage for average families -- scourge for our national economy and many families. there are many long-term solutions we debate, the pipeline, incentives for green energy, more i more exploration,
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nuclear energy, and, of course, conservation, probably the number-one in the long-term way to reduce foreign imports into the country and reduce the price. but everyone's asking, what are short-term solutions? well, to me, there's obviously one that would matter more than all the others and that has the best hope of getting something done, and so two weeks ago, in a letter to secretary of state hillary clinton, i asked the state department to pressure the government of saudi arabia to use its excess oil capacity as a means to calm oil markets. it's been my position that this is the quickest way to bring down gas prices and the reason is very simple, mr. president. the number-one thing jacking up prices right now is the fear in the markets that iran will shut off its production. we have an economic boycott, many nations of the world, a majority of the nations of the
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world, to iran to prevent them from going nuclear. and what are they doing? sheer saber rattling. saying if you squeeze us too hard, we'll cut off oil. in fact, they've cut off oil sales to britain and france, though they were just symbollish because britain and france don't buy much iranian oil. but with iran's saber raltsing that they might well -- saber rattling that they might well cut off oil exports, the price has gone up and up and up. and those who speculate in oil use that and probably have it go up even further. and so that is why i've been for the last two weeks suggesting that saudis say that they will produce more oil, that they will replace every barrel of production that iran takes off the market for the foreseeable future with a new barrel. and the saudis, of course, can do that. the saudis have 2.8 million barrels of extra production, they in the gulf states. iran's total sales to the rest of the world is 2.2 million barrels a day.
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therefore, they have the ability to do it. well, today i was pleased that saudi arabia declared it will fill any oil gap as a result of the iran oil embargo. at the 13th international energy forum in kuwait, the largest gathering of oil producing and consuming countries, the saudi oil minister, ali al nami, said the following -- quote -- "saudi arabia and others remain poised to make good any shortfalls, perceived or real, in crude oil supply." right after the saudi oil minister made this announcement, prices dropped .6%. my believe is if the markets believe this is real, the price will come down significantly further. and so we are asking the saudis to repeat this promise, because make no mistake, the more the saudis repeat the promise to offset iran -- iran's output, the more explicit they are, the
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more emphatic they are, the more they assure the markets that they're for real here, that this is not just a psychological device to calm the markets for the moment, the more the markets will calm down more permanently and the more the price will come down. now, i want to compliment the obama administration for doing tremendous work behind the scenes. i have talked to many people in the administration over the last few weeks and they assured me and gave me -- told me some details of what they were doing and their pressure has finally gotten the saudis to make this statement. this statement is a great start but, as i said, it should be repeated, reemphasized and elaborated upon by the saudis so that the markets will be assur assured. the president's right on the money when he said we also need long-term to our dependence on foreign oil. he's right that drilling alone
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won't solve our problems. we are producing more domestic oil in the united states than we have in eight years and we've discovered a huge supply of natural gas. but we have to look at all fronts. we have to look at green energy -- wind, solar. there are tax breaks that encourage these new industries that will employ thousands. we ought to pass them. our colleagues voted against them on this highway bill. that doesn't make much sense. i, for one, would look at nuclear. it's something that produces clean energy, that doesn't produce global warming. it has to be safe. and, of course, we have to continue to look to produce more oil. i was one of six or seven actually at the the senator from louisiana's importuning, six or seven on this side, who voted to open up parts of the east gulf to produce more oil and it has begun to do that and that will help. and the number-one thing we have to do in the long run, mr. president, is conservation. the fact that we are getting
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more miles per gallon, by 2020 we'll reduce our importation of foreign oil, which raises the price, by more than 1.1 million barrels a day. and, in fact, since we gave the president the ability to increase those cafe standards further -- and he did it -- the prediction is by 2030, we won't need to import any oil as our cars get 45 and 50 miles a gallon and the demand for gasoline goes down. and the number-one reason we have to import oil is because of gasoline and diesel fuel and airplane fuel. most of our energy can come from natural gas, can come from water power, wind power and solar power. so, bottom line, this announcement's a good announcement. i hope the markets will heed it. i hope the saudis will repeat it. and i hope as a result the price of oil will come down. it is the best news on a very bad front -- that is, of rising gasoline prices -- that we've had in a very long time.
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and let us hope it brings together some good news. with that, mr. chairman -- mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas is recognized. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, there they go again. on monday the justice
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department, under attorney general eric holder, added another count to its litany of shameful actions by refusing to preclear a commonsense texas state law that would require all voters to show a photo i.d. prior to casting their vote. the justice department's refusal to preclear this change in texas law by the texas legislature is simply inexcusable. the texas voter i.d. law is constitutional and it is a popular measure necessary to protect the integrity of the texas election process. this is national and should not be a partisan issue -- this is not and should not be a partisan issue. the polling that i've seen shows that republicans, democrats and independents in the 70% range all agree that voter i.d. laws
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are commonsense responses to the concerns that many have about the integrity of the election process. but, unfortunately, i can only conclude that attorney general holder and the justice department have chosen the low road of politics as opposed to the high road of the rule of law. i believe, unfortunately, the evidence supports the conclusion that this represents the lowest form of identity politics. in the face of high gas prices, the sluggish economy, and a struggling -- and a rising national debt, the obama administration has done everything -- has used every tool in its political toolbox to try to distract the american people from their priorities -- jobs, the economy, and debt. and, unfortunately, divide the
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american people while they distract them from the real issues. political games should not force the state of texas or any other state to spend its taxpayer dollars suing the department of justice in federal court, which it now must do, to enforce a state law that is clearly constitutional. you don't have to take my word for it. just read an opinion by justice stevens in 2008 upholding the constutionality of a similar indiana law back in, as i said, in 2008. it's nearly identical to the one in texas, and it is justified by a valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process. but the justice department continues to insist that there's something wrong with requiring every voter to prove their identity before they vote, just like you're required to do before you board an airplane,
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before you buy a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store, before you buy a six-pack of beer at that same convenience store. or if you look on the web site of the department of justice, in order to gain entry to the department of justice billing, you need -- you guessed it. a photo i.d. so this may sound like common sense. common sense is evidently not that common at the department of justice these days. you would have to be blinded to reality to deny that a significant amount of voter fraud exists in the united states. every state has had its experience with voter fraud. in texas, back in the famous box 13 election between coch stevenson and lyndon johnson for
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the united states senate, they found a number of votes for people who weren't even alive, of dead votes. perhaps one of the most recent books on this was written by john fund in 2008, in a book called "stealing elections: how voter fraud threatens our democracy." in that book, mr. fund amply demonstrates why the american people and texans fear that their legally cast vote will be diluted with the vote of people who are not legally qualified to cast a vote. we also know that identity they have the is unfortunately rampant. we've seen this in our broken immigration system where people claim social security numbers and identification which is not their own but is actually someone else's. it's also very difficult to prove because often the legal
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authorities lack what they need in order to dispute a voter's identity. thus, the need for a government-issued photo i.d. as a result, officials frequently hesitate to accuse someone of casting an illegal ballot, even when they're almost certain that a crime is being committed. it's easy for identity thieves to use another person's voter certificate to fraudulently cast a ballot where there's no real requirement for voters to prove their identity. we should be all about making their job more difficult, not easier. every case of actual, alleged or perceived voter fraud holds the potential to drive prospective voters out of the democratic process, undermine the legitimize my is i -- the legitimacy of our government and swing the results in close elections. the texas voter i.d. law is
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necessary to prevent these evils. this administration would have you believe, though, that state i.d. laws are intended to drive down the turnout among certain ethnic groups, but this could not be further from the truth. if people are legally qualified to vote, this is a law designed to protect their rights and to make sure their vote counts and that in a close election it will not be swung by people who have no legal right to vote. in fact, in their own letter to the texas secretary of state, the justice department presented no evidence -- zero, zip, nada, no evidence -- of discriminatory intent in the texas voter i.d. law. this is because the law was clearly intended to uphold the sacred principle of one-person,
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one-vote, and is narrowly tailored to avoid all retrogressi sr*e efforts on voting rights. for example, under texas law, every registered voter is entitled to receive a photo identification card for free. so if you don't have a driver's license, you don't have any other form of photo i.d., you can get one for free. and it also exempts from its requirement anyone above the age of 70. what's more, let's say election day comes, you don't have a photo i.d. but you want to vote, you can cast a provisional ballot even without a photo i.d., just so long as you come back within six days and produce one, showing that you are who you say you are and, thus, prove that you are legally qualified to vote. the texas voter i.d. law will
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also make sure that no legitimate voter is caught off guard by requiring the state to inform and educate all citizens as to what the new law requires. despite these multiple layers of protection, the justice department insists on pushing their false narrative that this law will somehow suppress legitimate voter turnout. just the contrary is true. the only votes that this i.d. law will suppress are those people who have no legal right to vote, and it will protect and preserve the right of legitimate voters to cast their vote undiluted by votes of people who are not qualified to vote. we also know that there is data from states that have recently passed voter i.d. laws that demonstrate there is no evidence whatsoever to support the claim
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of the department of justice that it will somehow potentially suppress minority votes. for example, in indiana, the subject of the supreme court decision in 2008 was an indiana voter i.d. requirement. and in georgia, election data shows that turnout has actually increased since the package of these commonsense photo i.d. requirements. the data also shows that the voter i.d. laws in georgia and indiana had no negative impact on minority groups. and these findings should be unsurprising given some of the research that has been conducted by a number of universities. the university of missouri, the university of delaware, the university of nebraska, among others. research compiled at the university of denver and the university of nebraska from 2000 to 2006 leaves no doubt about the conclusion.
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they say -- quote -- "concerns about voter identification laws affecting turnout are much ado about nothing." close quote. in fight of these facts, in spite of the evidence, in spite of the law, the holder justice department continues to cling to their false narrative, claiming that texas has not demonstrated significant enough evidence of voter fraud to justify its voter identification law. mr. president, that turns the law of the land on its head. texas is not required to prove to the satisfaction of eric holder and the justice department that there is sufficient basis for them to pass a state law. as the occupant of the chair knows, as the former attorney general of his state, the burden is on those who would contest the constitutionality of the law
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to prove it's unconstitutional or to otherwise prove that it violates federal law. under attorney general holder's view, the state of texas and any state that passes a voter i.d. requirement is presumed guilty until proven innocent. as i said, that turns the legal question on its head and gets it exactly opposite of what it should be. the department of justice also conveniently fails to mention that voter impersonation is almost impossible to detect or prove without a photo i.d. requirement like the one passed by the texas legislature. they similarly fail to mention that this type of law is perhaps the best way, the least burdensome way, the least intrusive way to eliminate in-person voter fraud. why would the justice department want to prevent states like
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texas from enforcing laws that both help detect and deter voter fraud? i can't find an answer for that any other way than to say that it's pure politics. the federal government should be doing everything in its power to encourage states to protect the integrity of the ballot, to make sure that every legitimate voter's vote counts and is not diluted by the illegal vote of someone who is not qualified under the law to cast a ballot. instead, eric holder's justice department is throwing up road blocks to those state-based efforts to protect the integrity of the election process, forcing my state, the taxpayers in my
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state to waste money to try to go to court and now to override his decision, which the court will do. and why will they do that? why can i be so sure? because the united states supreme court is the law of the land, not eric holder and not the justice department, and the supreme court has spoken on this issue, but that's irrelevant to mr. holder and the justice department. so my state has to spend -- waste, really, taxpayer money to defend this legitimate and evenhanded requirement when we should be focusing on other important issues. this washington game of divisive identity politics is reprehensible, and attorney general holder should be ashamed of himself for engaging in it. i hope my colleagues will join me in calling on attorney
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general holder to respect the rights of the people of texas and of their states by reversing his decision to block our commonsense voter identification law. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: i note -- i ask unanimous consent that the quorum be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, the senator from new york is recognized. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. i just wanted to rise today to praise the majority and minority leaders for coming together to make sure that we get our pending judicial nominees confirmed in a timely manner. today the senate is back on track to do what we've always done for decades -- confirm judicial nominees, the vast majority of whom are totally uncontroversial as part of our day-to-day business. thanks to the hard work of the leaders of both caucuses and to chairman leahy, who has been
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persistent and smart and focused on this issue, we were able to avoid having 17 cloture votes this afternoon on judicial nominees, most of whom were unopposed, 13 in fact, were supported by their republican home-state senators. while the details of the agreement have not yet been announced publicly, and they will be by senator leahy and leader reid and senator mcconnell, we know that there is an agreement and that's a good thing. the bottom line is that i hope we can continue at least at the same pace when we have cleared the backlog that has existed. let's be clear, mr. president. this is what doing our job is, and it's doing exactly what we have done literally for decades, nothing more, nothing less.
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you know, we can i suppose each side can point fingers at the other as to why this degenerated but that's not the point today. the point today is that we have come to an agreement and hopefully it will set the ball rolling on much smoother approvals of judicial nominees in the future with less altercation, more comity and actually filling the bench more quickly. there are more judicial vacancy now that -- vacancies now than any time in recent history. one out of every ten judgeships is empty and as a result of these vacancies families and businesses must wait sometimes over two years before their civil trial can even start. even worse, it costs the government $1.4 billion in 2010 lien to detain inmates awaiting trial because there weren't enough federal judges to hear their cases. the agreement we've reached to work through these judges is not an attempt to jam judges through
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the process. in one day in 2002, we were here in the senate, we confirmed 17 district court nominees and one circuit court nominee. so, mr. president, i'm glad that we've come to an agreement and waintd to give special thanks to my good friend, senator alexander of tennessee. he and i have talked about this for a long time, he's talked to senator mcconnell, i've talked to chairman leahy and leader reid and his encouragement to move us forward has been very helpful indeed. let us talk just about district court nominees for a moment. the vast majority of americans want to us confirm good, moderate, pragmatic judges to the u.s. district courts, exactly the nominees whom this president has put forward. after all, judges on the district court don't make law. courts of appeals and the supreme court have a little more latitude, depending on the
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case. and look, i've said it time and time again, i'll say it again. the senate has an obligation to take a hard look at the president's judicial nominees. my view remains that ideology does matter. every senator here has the right to make sure that a president's judicial nominees are within the main stream and the definitions of mainstream sometimes differ, we know that. there will always be nominees especially to the courts of appeals about whom we'll disagree. there will even be those whom some of us view as so extreme on either side we will refuse to give our consent to holding an up-or-down vote. but there's a hard look and then there is purposeful delay and we have to avoid that biate party at aught costs. we need -- either party at all costs. when nominees come out of the judiciary committee unanimously or by an overwhelming bipartisan vote-vote there is no reason they can't be approved on the
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floor a few days later. we've come together today. i know we can continue in the future to agree to confirm qualified judges without further obstruction, without furthering the view it's my way or the highway, and i'd like to mention one specific way i think we can move forward on judicial confirmations in a meaningful and useful way. in the past, we've cleared the calendar of nominees on whom there is a consensus before going out for recess. lately we haven't done that. as a result there were 20 nominees who did not get confirmed before last august and ten from december. i hope that wherever we are at the end of the summer we can agree to confirm consensus niece --, nominees, those who got unanimous support or close to it as we have -- as we always have in the past and fulfill our obligation to the third branch of government. and one other point, mr. president. today, this morning, we passed a highway bill overwhelmingly.
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it was led by senator boxer, one of the most liberal members of this body, senator inhofe, one of the most conservative. this afternoon we're going to hear an announcement of specifics of an agreement to move judges forward. tomorrow we will be working on a jobs bill that while there are differences in the specifics has broad bipartisan support and consensus. perhaps, perhaps, mr. president, an idea of a -- a moment of greater comity that we've seen this week is not just mommy terry bumomentarybut will last e future. the lesson that the american people teach us is that they don't want obstruction, particularly for its own sake. they understand that compromises have to be made in a legislative body, that it can't be "my way or the highway."
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and, unfortunately, all too often in the past year, we have seen too much of that attitude. the fact that we are batting 3-3 this week in terms of important issueissues -- a highway bill, judicial nominees and an i.p.o. bill -- with broad bipartisan consensus, hopefully augers well for the future. perhaps the era of obstruction and confrontation has passed its high-water mark. perhaps it is now politically damaging to block things for its own sake or because you didn't get 100% of what you wanted to. wanted perhaps a new era of more bipartisan consensus and more accomplishment for the american people to deal with our problems is upon us. i hope and pray it is so. and with that, let me yield the floor and note the absence of a
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quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call
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quorum call:
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mr. rockefeller: mr. president? the presiding officer: the snoer from west virginia. mr. rockefeller: mr. president, you ask that the order for the quorum call be reas you understandedment. the presiding officer: without objection, and the senator from west virginia is recognized. mr. rockefeller: thank the presiding officer, and i want to
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point out -- and i'm in this chamber together with my colleague, senator joe manchin, who has just as much interest in all of this as i do and feels the happiness from a wonderful event which is going to be happening we hope tomorrow in west virginia, which will not necessarily be a moment to most people around the country or even in this body but is an enormous moment to the people of west virginia because it's been a long-festering problem which we believe have been solved, which we believe is going to be ratified tomorrow. so what am i talking about? tomorrow, the retirees at century aluminum in ravenswood, west virginia, hopefullloy are going to ratify a decision which has been reached by the steelworkers, led by local -- a local hai heroine, karen garrel,
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who has stood out all night by the roadside in protesting, because back in 2009 century aluminum -- and aluminum, you know, is a volatile industry, but it is very much of an up industry now -- they simply shut down back in 2009 and they just -- hundreds of jobs and hundreds of retirees and their families were just sort of cut out and cut off. periods of negotiation went on with century aluminum, under particular management then, but it just wasn't going anywhere then. there wasn't a whole lot of good will that i was able to detect. but then comes the kind of change that you really want to see, and you start with really good people, good workers. it's a a hard job, pays pretty good wages, good benefits, not
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defined benefits in terms of health care but vipa benefits, which are benefits, nevertheless. and this is for retirees. and they're really good people. and they're located in a rural county in west virginia, which is kind of the heartland of west virginia and where a lot of good people come from and they tend to work very hard. and be very, rewonderful. -- and be very, very wonderful. swhee these men and women have always -- so what these men and women have always wanted is to be treated fairly. and in the world of big corporations and decisions which are made from faraway places by corporate leaders, it doesn't necessarily work that way, that the people on the line are out in the cold without benefits, without health care at all. there they are picketing or just being miserable, and the world
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pays little attention because there's not a lot of progress which is made. so then people, their attention sort of pulls away from it. but not if you're under the leadership of karen garrell, who is the local union leader there. and she is a fantastic woman that brings not only a ferocity -- she went to a corporate meeting, mr. president, and you will endiswhroi because i know the presiding officer very well -- in a t-shirt which was short of the hand of the corporation with blood dripping right off, and it was a stockholders' meeting, and she is so good that people sort of respected her for that rather than sort of resented her for that. but she's a really, really strong, classic appalachian person who happens to be a very, very strong union leader. so what happened was that they were -- there was new management at century aluminum, and karen
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garrell -- the state has been extraordinarily helpful on this, putting up -- the legislature putting up a lot of money over a period of ten years, and what should be able to happen is that century aluminum opens up again, people can go back to work, but then the big enchilada would be if the ravenswood plant itself -- the old kaiser plant would open up, for which there is a real purpose. they reminisce in west virginia about when henry kaiser, who obviously built that plant many, many years ago, would go through the plant shaking hands with workers knowing their names -- sort of a different era, an extraordinarily good man. so senator manchin an and i want this situation to work out and we've both worked very hard on it. and actually the parties weren't
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that far apart, but what made them not that far apart were the issues were complicated, but the will to have a settlement, the will to settle was what predominated. and so each side didn't realry get exactly -- didn't really get exactly what they wanted. but each side in a sophisticated, nuanced way understood that there were very high stakes for losing everything and very high stakes, including a lot of money from the west virginia legislature over ten years -- the stakes for winning or settling were extraordinary. and everybody rose to the occasion. this could have never happened without the leadership of karen garrell and her particular type of leadership, which i just -- i found wonderful, just refreshing. i'd been out there many times over the years because century aluminum has had a lot of problems.
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i'm sure senator manchin has, too. but now i think -- i'm praying and hoping that they're going to ratify this agreement tomorrow. and if that is so, i'm not sure that the news will reach baltimore. i'm certain that it won't reach vancouver, but it'll reach all over wres west virginia, because it'll be an example of labor and managemenandmanagement, with goe leadership coming together at precisely the right moment after a tremendous amount of strain and stress and anger, to come together. so i conclude my statement just praying, really, that the retirees will do what i think they're going to do tomorrow, and i encourage them to do that; to accept the agreement that has been agreed to by their union and by century aluminum. and if that happens, whether
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they know about it in vancouver or not doesn't really interest me all that much. they'll know about it in west virginia, and i thank the president. the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. manchin: mr. president, thank you. i also rise in support with my colleague, senator rockefeller, and i want to say what a good job he has done. both of us have had the honor of serving our great state as governors, and as every governor and every legislator knows, you fight for everybody job you can create and you fight like the dickens to save every job you have. i was in the legislature when he was our governor and we fought them side by side then. i became governor and he was the senator in washington and he fought with me on every job that we created and every job that we saved and now here we are again side by side fighting. ravenswood in jackson county is a very unique place, ripplely
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and all the surrounding towns. you have about 2,000 people that live if had that surrounding area. 3,000 in relationshi ripley, thd of the community. lucy is dogmatic. you have karen -- you have men and women fighting for survival. i think the big story here is that in 2009, the plant closed, as the senator has said. in 2010, all the employees were told that all of their health care benefits, that had been promised to them and negotiated in good faith, was gone, all gone by the stroke of a penning, and the courts upheld it. lo and behold, we have a new management team. mike bless -- and you're talking about monterey, california -- far out in monterey, california -- they came in and saw what we had.
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they saw the fabric of this town and the fo fortitude of these people. they started working and karen garrell and they just never gave up. they said, we want to be treated fairlg, we want what we were promised. so rchg mad everyone made consis here. so what we have coming up with a vote tomorrow -- there will be a vote on the rear retirees to accept the settlement. that's the first step in the rice direction. the state has entered moo it as a partnership also. and with the state they're going to work out some power contracts and things of this sort, how important our prices are, how important coal and the power that coal produces at affordable prices to make it competitive. without that we would be dead in the water, if you will. so there's so many promising things going ofnlt but when you see a community come together -- the governor worked very hard
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and the legislature. but all of us -- this is not a story you see today in america that much. in 2009, the plant closed, over 600 people lost their job, in a little town of 4,200 people. now you have a chance to at least get 400 or 500 back on the job. we haven't seen that turnaround too much. so you can imagine why the senator -- senator rockefeller and i are so excited. we're just so i think more than anything proud to represent a state that has so much resilience. and they've stuck together here. so our hat is off, from the corporate end to the union end to people working together from the community. and i might -- i need to say that the president of the steelworkers, leo gerard, has been just been a rock. and he gets right in. the steelworkers stood behind their retirees. they stood behind them and they
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wonk take anything less -- and they wouldn't take anything less than the retirees being treated fair. that was the glaw i glue it too. senator rockefeller's ability to get involved and persuade people to sit down and do the right thing, and all of us behind this effort. it came to fruition. today wes west virginia is a brighter spot, the people are enthusiastic. they got a little skip in their step. that means an awful lot. these are the harderest-working people. they don't ask for a lot, just an opportunity to take care of themselves and their family. that's what he have this a done. to karen garrell, to leo gerard, to the entire delegation, i think everyone is extremely pleased. we know that successful vote will move on. we're going to show the rest of the country that we can compete
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with anybody in the world. i know in maryland you feel the same way and we're going to work together on this and start rebuilding america one job at a time. this is 400 jobs at one time. so with that, i'd say thank you to all of the good people in west virginia ma made this happen. senator rockefeller, thank you for your leadership over the years. er i have been very honored to work with you. you have been a tremendous help. we'll continue to work together for many years. with that, i say thank you. and with that, i yield the floor and notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming is recognized. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. i come to the floor today as i have for the past two years as the health care law was signed by the president to give a doctor's second opinion about the health care law. i do this week after week because we need to recall that it was nancy pelosi, then speaker of the house, who famously said that congress had to first pass president obama's health care bill to find out what was in it. it's now been two years. we continue to find out more and more what's in the law as people read it. even this morning the "wall street journal" had a story about the upcoming two-year anniversary. of course the supreme court hearings which will begin in a little over a week about whether
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or not this health care law is constitutional -- i believe it is not, but three days are being devoted to that discussion. and that "wall street journal" article today shows a poll of, from the time that this health care law was passed all the way through today. and as of today the health care law is still more unpopular than it is popular. more people are opposed to the health care law even two years after it was passed than are supportive of it. interestingly, other studies of the american populace show as more people know about the health care law, they actually are less likely to support it. people who have talked to a health care provider arcs nurse, doctor or therapist, are even less likely to be supportive of the health care law. the reason is because as more people learn about the health care law, the more they learn about it, the more they don't
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like it. and so much of it specifically relates to the mandate that everyone in the country is going to be obligated to buy a government-approved product. and that's the crux of the discussion and the debate that will be held within the supreme court in the weeks ahead and in a decision to come within the next couple of months. and it's interesting as one goes through the process of how this law was passed -- it was a party-line vote, middle-of middle-of-the-night votes, closed door sessions -- that the american people were saying "no, do not pass this." but in spite of objections of people all across the country, this bill was crammed through the house and the senate and signed by the president at a time when the people said this isn't going to give us what we want. what we want is care that we
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need from a doctor that we want at a price we can afford. the president made lots of speeches and lots of promises to try to let the public know that he was listening to them, but he wasn't listening to the public, wasn't listening to this side of the aisle. and that's why this health care law actually, it fails patients. it fails providers, the nurses and the doctors who take care of those patients. and it fails the american taxpayers. i remember the president saying if you like your plan, you can keep it. and he said, even when he was running for president, he said you will not have to change plans. he said for those who have insurance now, nothing will change under the obama plan except that you will pay less. that's what he said. but yet, i went to a twal meeting in wyoming -- i twoepbt twoepbt -- i went to a town hall
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meeting in wyoming. how many of you under this health care plan believe you're going to pay more? every hand goes up. every one. the president said you can change $2,500 per family. the american people haven't seen that. they listen to the president's promises and they say i'm not sure i can believe what he has to say. the president talked about protecting medicare. did he that in an address to congress in 2009. yet, with the health care law, they took $500 billion away from medicare not to save medicare, not to strengthen medicare, but to start a whole new government program for other people. so when i talk to seniors, they have great concerns about the way that medicare has been handled in this health care law. specifically, their concern is they're not going to be able to find a doctor, a doctor to take care of them. when i talk to doctors at home in wyoming and i practiced medicine for 25 years, what i hear and what i see is that for
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patients -- these doctors' offices are all full. in terms of the health care law, i think it failed in helping us have more doctors and nurses and nurse practitioners and physician assistants. when i talk to them, they say patients that i've taken care of for years, who are on medicare, i continue to take care of them. patients who are turning medicare age continue to take care of them, but in terms of someone who may move to a town or someone whose doctor may retire, it is getting harder and harder for patients on medicare to find doctors to take care of them. a lot of it has to do with the concerns about reimbursement, the so-called doc fix that is part of the debate that recently was extended with payroll tax holiday legislation. but there's very little certainty that comes out of congress, and doctors look at that and say how can i make decisions about my practice and my life when i don't know if they're going to cut medicare fees by 27% or 30% at the end of
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the year. they faced a similar situation at the end of last year. they faced a similar situation at the end of february. so it's not a surprise that doctors are more and more reluctant to accept new medicare patients when their offices are already full with patients. so we look at all this and say is it a surprise that this health care law is as unpopular as it is. the president said this will not add one dime to our deficit. not a dime to our deficit. we have another budget this year, another deficit looking at $1 trillion. a spwoeplt report came out yesterday -- a c.b.o. report came out yesterday talking about greater money being spent than had been anticipated. higher deficit. the president promised, he said i will not sign a health care plan that adds one dollar to our deficit either now or he said
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any time in the future. period. but if you take a look at an honest accounting of the health care law, it is going to find that this will increase the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars in the first ten years alone, and much higher than that beyond that. i remember listening to the debates -- and here we are in another presidential year; the debates in 2008 when president obama, who was then a senator, a member of this body, and hillary clinton also a senator, a member this have body, were debating what they saw as the future for health care. at the time candidate obama opposed a mandate to buy insurance, a mandate that is now part of and actually many call the linchpin of this health care law, the thing that's going to be discussed and debated in the supreme court, the thing that the court is going to rule on whether it's constitutional or not, it is at the heart of president obama's health care law. he of course opposed it when he was a candidate.
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and he actually made it one of the hallmarks of his primary campaign against then-senator clinton, his opposition to the mandate. so people scratch their heads and say what is he really for? what does he stand for? the president when he was senator claimed that penalizing people for not buying health insurance was like -- and i will quote him -- it was like solving homelessness by mandating everyone buy a house. that was his words talking about the impact of a mandate. so here we are now two years later, three-quarters of americans believe it's unconstitutional for this body, for congress and for any president to sign something that mandates that they buy a government-approved product. don't know what the supreme court is going to do, but in fact the american people are opposed, significantly opposed
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to the key component of the president's health care law. the president also said we won't raise any of your taxes, and yet there's a list of taxes that have been raised as a result of this health care law. so it's not surprising that two years later there are more people opposed to the health care law than support it. you kind of think about the president and the statements that he's made and the statements made on the other side of the aisle in the run-up of the health care law, and it's not a surprise that then two years later people are saying that's not what happened. i remember the discussions and debates on this floor about the small businesses and the expenses that this was going to place on our small businesses. and the president said four million small businesses may be eligible for tax credits. the key word, of course, there was "may." in fact, the i.r.s. spent $1 million in taxpayer money to pay to mail millions and millions of
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postcards to small businesses promoting the so-called tax credit. but treasury department's inspector general -- here we are two years later -- recently testified that the volume of credit claims has been lower than expected. lower than the democrats promised, lower than the president talked about, but not lower than people that actually read the bill, read the law thought would occur, because of the requirements, what would need to do to apply, what the incentives were, what the consequences were. and they found out of these four million promised small businesses to get help, the treasury department's inspector general said only 309,000 firms have received the credit. 7% of the four million firms that the administration and the democrats in the senate said would receive the tax credits.
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so when people look at that and say did they really help me, the answer is no. that's why when i ask the second question at a town hall -- the first of course of which is do you think you'll end up paying more under the obama health care law, the one that promised you'd pay $2,500 less? all the hands went up, they believed they are going to pay more. the second question is do you believe the availability and the quality of your care under the obama health care law is going to go down, go down? nobody wants that for themselves or their parents or their kids. how many of you believe that it's going to go down? everyone raises their hand. they all believe that they will receive less available, less quality, less timely care than they were able to achieve before the health care law was passed. and that's why i come to the floor each and every week with a
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doctor's second opinion about the health care law because each and every week there is something new that has been found or a new regulation that comes out because let's not forget in this lengthy health care law, lengthy, heavy health care law, 1,700 times it says that the secretary of health and human services will write rules and regulations really describing what the law says. so when you take a very small part of the law, four or six pages relating to accountable care organizations and come out with 400 pages of regulations about accountable care organizations, even those places that the president holds up as models of where it works well, places like the mayo clinic or the utah health care system or guisinger in pennsylvania, many of those say we cannot comply with all of these rules and
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regulations that are now coming out from the secretary of health and human services. and every week, a new series of rules and regulations comes out, a new series of mandates, and doctors and nurses are finding that they are spending less time with patients and more time with paper, and it is hurting the job creators of the country. they don't know what it's going to cost them but they know it's going to cost more. the incentives and the consequences within the law are not those that are going to encourage businesses to continue to provide health insurance. i believe it's going to result in more and more people being dumped by their -- by their employers onto a different system with a significant expense to taxpayers around the country, and that's why, mr. president, i come to the floor week after week to talk about this health care law and say that it's bad for -- it's bad for patients, it's bad for
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the providers, the nurses and doctors who take care of those patients, and it's going to be terrible for taxpayers, and that's why i believe that we need to repeal and replace this -- this terrible broken health care law with something that is actually patient centered, which cuts the patient at the center of the discussion. it's not government centered, not insurance company centered, but patient centered. and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: quorum
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call: quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: i ask consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: and consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, there is a bill that passed the house of representatives with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. it's supporters have characterized it as a jobs bill. it is a bill which, frankly, changes many laws and comes over to the senate.
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the minority leader, the republican leader has been on the floor almost every single day really urging us to take this bill up as quickly as possible and pass it because of the impact it might have on employment across america. i might say for the record that i believe the bill we passed today, the transportation bill, is the true jobs bill. 2.8 million jobs across america. the house bill won't get close to that on a good day. our bill will save and create millions of jobs. it will build an infrastructure for our economy for years to come and it passed with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. over 70 members of the senate, democrats and republicans, voted for this bill; extraordinary effort by senator boxer of california, senator inhofe of oklahoma, and many, many others resulted in a bill that was well-crafted, balanced and will in fact fund our infrastructure needs in this country for the next two years. the house has been at a loss to
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produce a similar bill, even though we're both facing a march 31 deadline for this trust fund that is used across america to maintain our infrastructure. the house has moved from one extreme to another. they have crafted bills which were way too partisan. this used to be the easiest lift in washington. every five years the federal transportation bill was an opportunity for both parties to work together. it's true, members would put in projects for their districts and states. that's to be expected. but at the end of the day a bill would emerge which ultimately had strong bipartisan support. i can't think of a single instance in a time i've been in the house and senate that that wasn't the case. the house effort, however, to this date has failed. i hope that they can use our bill as a starting point. they should. if they bring our bipartisan bill to the floor of the house of representatives and open it to amendment, then we'll be in a position where we can sit
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together in a conference committee and work this out as we should on a bipartisan basis. it is a good jobs bill. in fact, it is the biggest jobs bill that congress will have considered in the last year. let's go back to the bill that passed the house which the republicans have characterized as a jobs bill. and i think it's important that before we rush into this, taking a look at it, that we take a careful look at it and ask what does this bill do. this bill is really designed to change disclosure, accounting and auditing standards and to exempt many firms and corporations from the securities and exchange commission oversight. one part of this bill exempts newly public firms with less than $1 billion in revenue from certain disclosure, accounting and auditing standards over a transition of a period of five years after they first go
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public. it exempts firms with less than $1 billion in revenue and less than $700 million in traded stock, which they characterize as emerging growth companies, they would be exempt from regulation for the most part. that would in fact exempt more than 90% of the companies going public in america. the so-called emergency emerging growth companies would be exempt from stocks 404-b which require a firm's auditor to attest to and report on controls. it would exempt firms from safeguards that we adopted in this country after enron. there is little justification for rolling back the dodd-frank provisions on executive compensation, but firms would be exempt in many respects because of this bill. it is hard to imagine that a firm with $1 billion in revenue
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doesn't have the resources to disclose golden parachutes in executive compensation agreements. exempting firms from new accounting standards would create a two-tiered accounting system that's bound to be confusing. the financial accounting standards board, fas pw*e, says provisions -- fas pw*e says provisions would undermine the rigorous process already undertaken. we're other part of this bill increases the amount of capital private companies may raise under a public offering from $5 million to $50 million annually and remain exempted from s.e.c. oversight. they want to take a lot of this capital formation and business formation off the grid. they don't want oversight and disclosures and transparency. that's what this bill does. it fails to include a multiyear cap on the amount firms may raise and allows firms to raise
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$50 million annually indefinitely while avoiding s.e.c. registration and disclosure. it goes on, something called crowd funding. it allows firms to remain exempt from s.e.c. registration and raise up to $1 million annually through crowd funding. what does that mean? large numbers of individuals contributing a small amount of money to a company. retail and unsophisticated investors will be allowed to invest up to $10,000 through crowd funding sites with few disclosure requirements. there's another provision that allows private firms that sell more than $5 million in securities to generally solicit or advertise private offerings without being required to register with the s.e.c. provided the firm verifies all purchasers or credited investors. the risk of fraud through cold calls and other sales tactics increases significantly with the elimination of a requirement that firms have a preexisting
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relationship with potential investors. in the early 1990's, the s.e.c. allowed general solicitation, but again restricted general solicitation in 1999 because of widespread fraud. the accredited investor standard is so low as to include individuals whose net worth is $1 million, who has earned $200,000 annually. it all -- allows banks to raise capital while avoiding s.e.c. registration by increasing the shareholder threshold from 500 shareholders to 2,000 and $1 million in assets to $10 million. it's no surprise, mr. president, that when you look carefully at this bill, even though it received a large vote in the house -- i don't dispute that -- many organizations oppose it. they include the consumer federation of america, aarp, americans for tax reform, afl-cio, the coalition for sensible safeguards, perg, the
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national education association, the national consumers league, the national association of consumer advocates. and there are other firms, organizations with serious concerns, which include the council of institutional investors, fasbi, north american securities administration association. mr. president, i'd ask for consent at this point to place in the record an editorial from "the new york times" of march 11 entitled "they have very short memories." mr. president, this editorial states in part house republicans, senate democrats and the president have found something they can all support -- a terrible package of bills that would undo essential investor protections, reduce market transparency and distort the efficient allocation of capital. never mind that reams of congressional testimony, market
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analysis and academic research have shown that regulation has not been an impediment to raising capital. in fact, too little regulation has been at the root of all our recent bubbles and bursts, the dot com crash, enron, the mortgage meltdown. those free-for-alls created jobs but then they imploded, causing mass joblessness. the centerpiece of this bill, according to this editorial, would curb investor protections in the sarbanes-oxley law that require companies to meet specific disclosure of accounting and auditing standards before going public. the legislation is promoted as applying only to small companies but the parameters would encompass all but the nation's biggest new companies. mr. president, i have been down this path before. i have been in congress long enough to remember some of these bubbles, remember the victims and the losers when it was all over. the exuberance of deregulation which led sadly in many
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instances to an unregulated marketplace where greed triumphed. after each financial crisis, the savings and loan crisis, enron, the housing economic crash of 2008, this body has investigated and attempted to learn from the lessons of the past. how many times on this floor have senators debated measures to ensure that we don't face another enron where shareholders lost between $40 billion and $60 billion in investments and employees lost $2.1 billion in mention plans, not to mention their jobs. we promised that that would never happen again. we established standards of regulation which we are now proposing to waive in this so-called jobs act. i worked with my colleagues in the wake of the 2008 economic slide to pass the dodd-frank act, to close the loopholes that resulted in millions of families losing their homes and $17 trillion in lost household and personal wealth.
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we learned from the past and worked together to provide oversight where regulation was just too lax. we passed commonsense rules to ensure consumers and investors were protected. now, just a few years later, after that crisis brought our economy to its knees, it seems some have forgotten those lessons. it wasn't too much regulation that led to the financial crisis of 2008. we didn't get into that mess because agencies like the s.e.c. had too much power. it was the other way around. it was the deregulation of the 1990's and federal agencies turning a blind eye to activities that precipitate the global financial meltdown. regulatory agencies were underfunded, overwhelmed and often limited in their authority. that doesn't mean we should do nothing. there are things we can do to ease the burden of companies looking to raise capital and create jobs. there are commonsense measures to help small businesses access capital. we can exempt employees from
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counting toward shareholder limits so that companies can reward their employees with stock options. we can increase the amount of money start-ups can raise while still being exempt from s.e.c. registration. there are things we can do to help companies grow and create jobs while still protecting investors. but the bill passed by the house does not do that. the house-passed bill says that more than 90% of newly public firms don't have to comply with federal disclosure, accounting and auditing standards. this means that when an investor is making a decision about which newly public firms to put their hard-earned money in, they won't have access to basic vital information about those firms. how can investors make good, sound decisions about where to invest their savings and their money when some firms -- those who have recently gone public -- won't have to comply with new and improved accounting standards but all other firms will? the house-passed bill doesn't have enough protection for
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everyday investors who are considered unsophisticated in the financial sector. those who may not fully understand the risks to investing through an online crowd-funding web site. a at a recent senate banking hearing, professor john could have ye from columbia university law school said the crowd funding technique is especially open to fraud because the companies that use it are most likely brand-new entities that don't have any operating history and might not even have financial statements. professor coffey said those firms would be flying on a wing and a prayer, selling more hope than substance. the house-passed bills would allow firms to advertise and sell their stock through cold calls and other sales tack particulars. that is an invitation for fraud. in this situation, someone could promise investments with high return with little risk. the center for retirement research at boston college calls this the magician and reports that seniors are three times
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more likely to be the victims of this type of fraud. there is room to improve this bill to allow small businesses to grow and create jobs, but we have to do it with an eye toward oversight, transparency and rules of the road which protect the average investor. this so-called jobs bill creates a job opportunity for any individual salesman to set up shop with a bar stool and a laptop computer. they can be selling worthless stock for phantom companies. this bill invites them to fleece unsuspecting customers of up to $10,000, promising that they will own certain companies. it can turn out that these companies have no assets, no business model and may not even exist. and in the name of deregulation, these fraudsters could even include those who have been banned for life from the securities industry. that was a point that was raised by professor coffey's testimony.
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this bill is written to allow new salesmen to come on the scene and doesn't put any provision in there to prohibit those that have been banned by the securities industry from sales of securities. why would we invite the thieves back into the marketplace? this half-boiled concoction of ill-conceived ideas skirts, evades and nullifies investor protection in market transparency standards that were enacted in response to the dot com crash, the enron debacle, and the litany of bubbles and bursts that have cost legions of unsuspecting americans their savings, their jobs and their retirement. that one paragraph from the "new york times" editorial -- and i will quote it -- "the centerpiece of the bill would curb investor protections in sarbanes-oxley law that require companies to meet specific disclosure, accounting and auditing standards before going
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public. this legislation is promoted as applying only to small companies, but the parameters would encompass all but the nation's biggest new companies. literally 90% of the new companies would be exempt under this provision. exempting firms with less than $1 billion in revenue and less than $700 million in traded stock, so-called emerging growth companies, would exempt more than 90% of the companies going public, according to testimony before the senate banking committee. the delay in compliance with dodd-frank on executive compensation is particularly cheeky. do you recall this? we sent billions of dollars to banking institutions as a result of the bailout to save them from their own stupidity and greed, and they turned around and gave executive compensation and bonus awards right and left to the very people who had engineered this disaster.
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we said when we passed dodd-frank that was the end of that story. we were going to change it. one of the dodd-frank provisions -- and i quote here -- in february, 2009, senator christopher dodd, a connecticut democrat who was chairman of the senate banking committee, inserted a rule about pay at bailed out banks into the economic stimulus. the rule did nothing to change the bonuses that had just been paid a few weeks earlier, but it required that bonuses paid in the future be paid in stock and not exceed one-third of total compensation. the idea was to create the right incentives, the incentives to be a larger owner of the company, into decisionmaking, not take the money and run. now comes this so-called jobs bill and exempts executive compensation standards. firms with $1 billion in revenue certainly have the resources to disclosure golden parachutes and insidious good old boy compensation packages. mr. president, at this point i would like to enter into the record a stunning article from
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the "new york times" this morning written by greg smith entitled "why i am leaving goldman sachs." the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: i will tell my colleagues, read this article. read it and understand that there is a changing ethos and a changing standard at some of these major corporations and that the pursuit of profit has led this man who was one of the stars on the horizon in this industry to pick up and lead the largest -- one of the largest firms in america. it is also an indication of why we continue -- we need to continue our vigilance over this industry to make certain that the right forces and the right market forces prevail. crowd funding where they try to get a lot of small investors in a hurry brings organized fleecing to the internet. letting the next generation of ponzi players go viral. let's call this crowd funding for what it is. it's internet gambling.
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the odds will never favor the investor. when these wired willie lomans are finished exploiting the unsuspecting investors out of their savings, their retirements and their homes, guess what will happen. congress will be called on again to come in with a reform bill to clean up the mess and repeal this pitiful package until the next deregulation waiver is called for by those inspiring this piece of legislation. mr. president, i know who ends upholding the bag when the deregulators have their day. i know who ends up losing when we open the so-called market forces without oversight and transparency. first, ordinary folks investing their savings in something that looks like a good idea, trying to recover from the beating they took in the market, trying to rebuild their retirement accounts, buying worthless stock in worthless companies that's being invited by many of the provisions in this bill, and
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then when it certainly goes to the bottom, when everything is desperate, no one knows which way to turn, who will step in? taxpayers and congress, and we will be called on to clean up this irrational exuberance that is creating -- supposedly going to create new jobs. i think we got it right. i think the standard that we have now establishes the transparency and accountability which we need to demand of every aspect of the marketplace. certainly, we can change some of these laws. we can be mindful and sensitive to some aspects of it, but this bill goes entirely too far. there will be a substitute offered. i'm working with several of my colleagues -- senator jack reed, senator carl levin, ansar mark bennet, mary landrieu and others, to put a provision
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forward, a substitute which makes the changes to allow capital formation but does not take down the basic protective regimen that we have established in the law for those who are in this industry. we make a serious mistake and we ignore history if we turn our backs on 80 years of this government stepping up to make sure that the marketplace in america was safe for investors, to make sure that the person selling you a stock was actually a well-qualified person, extraordinary so they -- registered so they knew they would be held accountable, to make certain that companies you buy stock in actually exist and to make certain those who are the least vulnerable in america don't lose everything because this congress decided to look the other way because somebody wants to take a profit out of an idea. this is an important measure. every day, the republican leader has come to the floor and said call it immediately, let's go, let's get it done. we need to at least take the time to reflect on it, to offer
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an alternative to it and to do something which is exceedingly rare on the floor of the united states senate -- a debate. how about that, mr. president? you were engaged in debate in your callow youth. you know that perhaps good ideas can be exchanged in that process. the closest we have to debates now are two minutes equally divided. that doesn't cut it. not for the senate and not for a bill of this importance. i urge my colleagues before they rush to judgment because it passed the house with a big measure it has to be a good deal. take the time to read it. many people, including myself who years ago were lured into the repeal of glass-steagall because of the notion of letting a thousand flowers bloom realize what happened. when it was all over, there were no flowers. unfortunately, what was left was the rubble of the recent recession. it's time for us to vow not to make that mistake again. mr. president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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